Dr. Mary Klayder is a proud KU alumna, having received all of her degrees from the University of Kansas. After graduating with her undergraduate degrees in Art History and English Education, she spent time working as a professional clown and as a high school English teacher (both experiences that have colored her teaching style). She has been a monumental force in the education of thousands of students since her return to KU as a graduate student and then lecturer over 30 years ago.
Klayder has taught myriad courses over her tenure at the university, but most notably has been teaching English 105 (Freshman Honors English) and English 205 (Freshman-Sophomore Honors English Pro-Seminar: Ways of Seeing) for nearly 30 years. In these courses in particular, Klayder has developed relationships with students that have resulted in multiple Rhodes scholarships and other major national awards, professorships at elite universities across the globe, creative writers for Google and other Fortune 500 corporations, more doctors than one can count, and countless other successes. For the students in Klayder’s 105 and 205 courses, she becomes a guiding light in their educational journey through KU and a constant advocate for their success during and after their time on Mt. Oread.
Since joining the KU Department of English and KU Honors Program, Klayder has made it her business to ensure both units are stronger and better each and every year. As a lecturer, there is no expectation of service in her contract with the university. Klayder goes above and beyond the call of duty in this way and serves the university and its students in meaningful ways. She holds (or has held) administrative roles in the department and program, teaches in both spaces, and serves on numerous committees each year that aim to make English, Honors, and KU even better at delivering high-quality education to its students.
As a Lecturer, rather than a professorial faculty member, Klayder is not eligible for many of the prestigious teaching awards at KU. However, she is eligible for a few such awards, and has won all of them, some multiple times. In 2009, she won the HOPE award which is chosen by the KU Senior Class, and she is a six-time winner of the Mortar Board Outstanding Educator Award, also chosen by students.
Klayder’s central contribution to the University of Kansas has been her impact on students as an adviser, mentor, and teacher. Her motto is, “It’ll be fine.” You can find this little line scrolling on her desktop monitor in her office, on her stationary, hanging on her wall, and even tattooed on her wrist. If you wander into the third floor of Wescoe, Klayder’s office is easy to identify as it is the only office with a line of students sitting outside it at almost every point of the day. She is more than an adviser, mentor, or lecturer; she is a defining force in the success of her students. Says one of her nominators, “Dr. Klayder encourages, supports, and listens to students from their first day at KU and then continues to advance each person through life. She is truly one of the most remarkable and inspirational role models for young people I have ever encountered. Her admirers are legion, and many of these former students are now KU's great young leaders out in the world.”